Robots Replacing Dartmouth College Football Players

Dartmouth College's Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) robot will replace all 11 human players during football games this upcoming season.

College football players now have one less avenue to showcase their skills. New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College will start replacing all in-game players on both sides of the ball with its Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) robots.

Dartmouth started using its MVP robots in 2015 to reduce the number of hits players took during practice, in hopes of reducing concussions. Coach Buddy Teevens said the team’s success last season is due in large part to a reduction in injuries, for which he credits the MVP robots.

But Teevens isn’t satisfied. He thinks the MVP can be an even bigger team player. “In the future, we’ll line up 11 MVPs and they’ll compete in the games for us,” Teevens said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity. Our players will execute their responsibilities by remote control.”

Dartmouth shows how the MVP robot has been training with the team’s players. MVP even beats the humans at the all-important 40-yard dash, running a “four-flat 40.”

Although impressive to this point, there’s room for improvement for MVP. As you’ll see in the video above, catching passes and certain drills, including stair climbs, remain a struggle for the humanoid robot that doesn’t have hands, feet, or a head. Hopefully Quinn Connell, the former Dartmouth College engineering student who developed MVP, has been hard at work in the lab overcoming these issues.

Dartmouth team doctor Charles Carr says the MVP robot has been a real medical breakthrough, as Dartmouth football players have reduced their injuries by 80 percent by not tackling each other in practices. A couple Dartmouth alumni want to take the love of robots even further, contemplating that a robot coach might also be in the works.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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